Ancient Sanskrit Pictograph near Sedona, Arizona?

Copyright 2-18-2002 by Jack Andrews

Over the years I have made several trips from our home outside Tucson to the Sedona, Arizona area with my wife and family. On one of our recent trips, my wife and I decided to visit a cliff dwelling site south of Sedona: Palatki ruin, noted for a large display of ancient pictographs and some petroglpyhs. For the uninitiated reader, pictographs are ancient symbols and images painted on the rocks and petroglyphs are ancient symbols, and images scratched or incised into the rock surface.

Palatki ruin and rock art site sits several miles away from a highway that connects Sedona to Cottonwood. The drive from Sedona takes you down the slope of the Verde Valley, and the turnoff to Palatki guides you through open red dirt desert on an unpaved road back to a group of spectacular Sedona red cliffs. The actual ruin site is in a secluded cove hidden by trees, above a small riparian area created by a ribbon-like waterfall that flows down seasonally from the overhanging cliff above the ancient living quarters.

When we arrived at Palatki, we spent a few minutes appreciating the incredible beauty of the site before making our way to the small ranger station and visitor center, located in an early Western farmer's house under the shade of some large trees. The whole area has a park like quality, and is a very special place.

The U.S. Forest Service brochure on Palatki states:

Palatki and its sister site of Honanki at Loy Butte are the two largest cliff dwellings in the Sedona Red Rocks area. Honanki represents one of the largest population centers in the Verde Valley; this period in Southern Sinagua prehistory is called the "Honanki Phase" and is named after this impressive cliff dwelling. Many of the cliff dwellings in the Red Rock/Secret Mountain Wilderness area were occupied during the "Honanki Phase". The actual occupation of Honanki was probably between AD 1130-1280, based upon a tree-ring date of 1271, for a wooden window lintel in the upper ruin, as well as pottery shards. Palatki habitation is dated as AD 1100-1300÷The pictographs you see here have not yet been scientifically studied. What little we know about them suggests they were created over a long period of time and include several design styles. The earliest may date to the Archaic period (3000-8000 years ago), before the cliff dwellings were constructed.
We then started up the rocky trail leading to the picture writings, which are under a protective overhanging cliff, mostly on vertical walls in a series of shallow alcoves or grottoes. I expected to see some very interesting and mystical pictographs, but I never expected to see a particularly amazing written symbol that was actually waiting, painted on the rock, sitting unrecognized over the centuries, hidden in front of the eyes of countless visitors. As we approached the first grotto, this ancient image was directly in front of my eyes and stood out among the other paintings like a flashing sign. As a lifelong artist I have spent many years using artists tools and paintbrushes and I immediately recognized the red markings applied to the rock here as brush strokes. They taper off at the end of each stroke as clearly as brush strokes in calligraphy.

I motioned to my wife Susan to come over and take a look. What does that look like to you? I asked her. Wow! she exclaimed, It looks Tibetan! This coincided exactly with my first impression. I think it looks Chinese, or Tibetan too, I blurted out, excited at the discovery. We immediately took several photos of the symbol for future reference. I have included a few of the photos in this article.

2002 Photo © by Jack Andrews

In my photographs of the symbol you can see two views of what appear to be Chinese or Asian characters painted as pictographs. When I first saw this image I was stunned by the incredible resemblance to some Asian characters. In Ancient American vol 6, no. 41, I wrote an analysis of a small book written in 1913, which translates ancient Chinese text describing visits to Arizona and the Grand Canyon by ancient Asian travelers, so it was quite exciting to discover this symbol unexpectedly, here in Arizona, less than a day's drive from the Grand Canyon.

In another excellent book, Pale Ink: Two Ancient Records of Chinese Exploration in America, Henrietta Mertz had covered the subject of two visits to Arizona, one in 500 A. C. E. by a Buddhist Priest Hwui Shan and another account compiled by the great Yu for the Emperor Shun around 2250 B.C.E.

The red pictographs-like the example I photographed at Palatki-are estimated to be between 3,000 and 6,000 years old. As it was explained to me by a ranger at the site, the pigment is thought to be either iron oxide pigments mixed with blood, red ochre, or iron oxide pigments alone. If we take the Henrietta Mertz date of the 2250 B.C.E. visit above and add it to 2002 (our present date) we come up with a possible visit some 4,252 years ago to Arizona and maybe here at Palatki by ancient Asian travelers!

We then look at the 3,000 to 6,000 year old age attributed to the Palatki pictograph and it becomes evident that the ancient symbol painted on the rock, so long ago, can take on a whole new meaning. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has suggested a possible Asian or Sanskrit origin of this particular pictograph at Palatki. Was there an ancient Asian visitor or group of visitors to Arizona, who may have painted this very symbol on the rock at Palatki?

I have the photograph of this symbol (as in this article) posted on my web site (Lost Civilizations and Hidden Mysteries) with a brief description of why I think this symbol might be Chinese in origin.

Gene Matlock who has written books and articles on the possibility of an ancient Indian presence in the Americas, visited my web site and was amazed at the resemblance of the pictograph to characters in ancient Indian Sanskrit literature. He too saw these red markings as eastern symbols. And in correspondence, Gene points to a possible Sanskrit origin of this pictograph.

Although its exact birth date is controversial, many scholars agree that Sanskrit may be one of the oldest languages and systems of writing on earth. Even if we consider the later date attributed to classical Sanskrit (1000 B.C.E.) it becomes apparent that the dating of Sanskrit or its Indo-Aryan predecessor language could possibly coincide with the appearance of the Sanskrit look-alike pictograph at Palatki. If Sanskrit is actually much older, then the written language may have been established in the world before the appearance of the pictograph at Palatki. Either way, a traveler from the Indian subcontinent who may have made his/her way to Arizona and Palatki, could have had an awareness or knowledge of Sanskrit or pre-Sanskrit symbols. Native peoples who established contact with such visitors may then have acquired knowledge of-or at least familiarity with-Sanskrit spiritual symbols such as this, the AUM represented at Palatki. Perhaps they would have included these symbols in pictographs at a spiritually important site such as Palatki as they would other powerful symbols. Or perhaps this symbol was contributed by the ancient visitors themselves.

I have decided to include some of the most relevant email correspondences, as they occurred, between Gene Matlock, Jayendra Upadhye and myself, since they relate the interesting speculation on this symbol in the manner it unfolded to us:

Sunday, January 13, 2002
from: Gene Matlock

when I saw that inscription, supposedly written in Chinese, I knew for sure that it was Sanskrit, and as the writer says, it is the Sanskrit "Om" turned upside down. To make sure, I sent the picture to a Hindu friend in Singapore. Jayendra Upadhye person who speaks a close Sanskrit derivative: Aprabraunsha.

Aprabraunsha is a group of languages deriving directly from Sanskrit and that, combining his facility with Aprabraunsha (Prakrit, and others), with what he does know of Sanskrit, gives him an excellent intuitive background.


Sunday, January 13, 2002
from: Jayendra Upadhye

The letter if at all sanskrit is actually the sanskrit "AUM" pronounced as "Om". But the tripple syllable has been turned anticlockwise by 90 degrees.

Sanskrit om or aum symbol in your jpg, [The photo in this article] the "half moon and dot in the top part of the "om" have become straight lines. but the hooked features are still visible, though turned 90 deg clockwise.

Pictograph cropped photo turned counter clockwise 90 degrees.

Photo © 2002 by Jack Andrews

Do the people that wrote this use words like "OM", "AM""AMEN" "AMIN" etc?

The Arabic "AMIN is same as the latin "Amen" is the same as the indian root sanskrit word "Om" which was considered as the "word of god" the shabda-brahma" or "all encompassing word as it represented the hindu holy trinity  A for brahma the creator, U for vishnu the preserver and M for Mahesh the destroyer. Pronounced together, Aum sounds like Om but "is different a bit in that the "m" is to be pronounced nasally without closing the lips as one would so when pronouncing

- Jayen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002
from: Gene Matlock

by now quite a few Hindus have seen the picture of the strange painting at Palatki I sent them. They are really excited, and with good reason. First, the word "Palatki," (assuming that the Amerindians named it), in itself explains in Sanskrit the reason for the painting being there: Palayat (protection (divine) + G (mystical syllable, utterance, etc.). I sent the picture to three learned men. By now, they've sent it to many others.

There is only one reason for the reason why this syllable "OM" is not written in the correct position. It was probably written on an amulet or talisman. Since not one Hindu in a thousand could read or write in those days, an illiterate person put it there, knowing only that it meant "Om."

- Gene

Thursday, January 17, 2002
from: Jayendra Upadhye

I had reached the same conclusion that the person using the "om" was either illiterate or had been a descendant of a person introduced to sanskrit long before he was born. There is a possibility that the "om" was painted by a man who thought of it as a pictogram, and thus thought nothing of turning it around by 90 deg in any direction. secondly if om is painted on a hide amulet and worn on the biceps (as was practice in india ..not regarding om but of tying amulets on the biceps),,then the reader would see the on turned sideways, and may be over time associate a sideways written trisyllable as the "real" om. These were my thoughts after seeing the painting.


Gene also says that dictionary entries in Cologne Sanskrit Lexicon, show that name Palat-ki really derives from the Sanskrit Palayat-gi. Note that the last syllable can be either "gi" or "gir." Even if the last syllable were "Ki," you would still be on solid ground because the homes of the ancient North India Hopis, those of Khiva, were called "KI-VA" : Ant Hill Residence. So, it is possible that a great Kiva was once located at Palatki.

The Palatki ruin, and the Sedona region, along with the Verde Valley have a long history and prehistory of human habitation. I have visited other significant ancient sites in the area, such as Montezuma Well and its associated cliff dwelling. Many of these ruins are along creeks, rivers, and watercourses and there are indications that ancient travelers could have migrated along such watercourses, which could have supplied an abundance of wild game and in many cases cultivated foods. Was there an even more ancient group of travelers from the Indian subcontinent who sailed across the oceans and managed to make their way to the interior of the North American continent along such watercourses and on to Arizona, leaving a painted Sanskrit symbol on the red rock cliff face of Palatki?

The striking nature of this pictograph at Palatki demands further investigation and study. This spring Gene Matlock, my wife, Susan Anway and I will return to the Palatki site and search for more evidence of possible Sanskrit writings. There are many questions to ask in relation to such a strange symbol appearing at Palatki. If the symbol was written by someone who had knowledge of Sanskrit, how did this knowledge make its way to Arizona, or was the individual who painted this symbol actually from India? Do the First Peoples of the area have stories of such a visitor or visitors? Was the symbol painted by a Native American of the period who had contact with Indian influences, and if so where and how did such contact occur?

What was the writer of the symbol at Palatki trying to communicate? Parts of the symbol resemble the sacred Om symbol. Was this writer designating Palatki as a spiritual center as Gene Matlock suggests it was (great kiva) ? Palatki certainly is a beautiful place that puts one in a meditative mood. Om or Aum is a symbol of the essence of Hinduism. It can mean: Oneness with the Supreme, and a merging of the physical being with the spiritual. There is a spiritual "doorway" in the rock wall near the end of the trail to the picture writings at Palatki, a large vertical rectangular slab of rock is slightly separated from the cliff. Certain Native American elders believe this dark shadowy separated space defines a door where the spirits of the mountain journey between their world and ours. This certainly hints at the spiritual importance of the site and refers back to the meaning of the Om symbol, painted on the same rock face as that doorway between the physical and the spiritual, just a short distance away.

Palatki has many strange mystical symbols painted on the rocks over the centuries by visitors and inhabitants of the area. Certain Native American tribes still use the location for spiritual ceremonies. Did an ancient travelers from India visit Palatki and meet with native inhabitants, experiencing the sacred nature of this special location, becoming so enthralled that they left this potent and powerful eastern spiritual symbol in red iron oxide pigment as a remembrance to the future, or a gift of spiritual awareness to the site in pictographic form?

The possible importance of this discovery is best stated by Gene Matlock: Jack, Now, this is the first time in history, that I know of, that Sanskrit (pictographs) have been found in the Americas. Possibly the person who wrote this was either neither illiterate or had accustomed himself to writing Sanskrit in the wrong direction. You really have something meaningful here. I personally think that this "Om" syllable is a big discovery, every bit as big as the Decalogue Stone in Los Lunas, New Mexico

From the U.S. Forest Service handout for the Palatki/Honanki sites, south of Sedona, Arizona

In 1980, after successfully completing the genealogy of his Matlock family line, Gene D. Matlock, then a high school teacher in Azusa, Ca, became ambitious. He said to himself, "If I can find my Matlocks, I can find anything and anybody!" This hyper-confident attitude engendered the following books: Jesus and Moses Are Buried in India, Birthplace of Abraham and the Hebrews; Yishvara 2000 - The Hindu Ancestor of Judaism Speaks to This Millennium; India Once Ruled the Americas; The Last Atlantis Book YouÌll Ever Have to Read; From Khyber (Kheever) Pass to Gran Quivira (Kheevira), NM and Baboquivari, AZ - When India Ruled the World. He is now preparing a serialized online book for the Hindu website,, entitled India Once Ruled the World. Besides these books, he has written articles dealing with India as progenitor of all nations for Viewzone Magazine (, Vandemataram, and others. Gene, who has studied Hindu mythology since childhood, received his undergraduate degree from Mexico City College (now University of the Americas), in 1951. Because of his knowledge of Hindu mythology and traditions, he smelled a strong odor of "curry 'n rice" in Mexico, from the moment he first crossed the border in 1948. - by Gene Matlock

Jayendra Upadhye clarifies his use of the word hide as follows: There is a custom in India of wearing amulets on the neck, biceps etc, but not as painted hides, but on paper in enclosed in small metal capsules. Native amerindians might have used hide instead as paper was not in plentiful supply as far as I know, but hide was.

The name Palatki is attributed to archaeologist Jesse Walter Fewkes, who named the site in 1895. The name is Hopi, which Fewkes interpreted as meaning Red House. The Fewkes translation of Palatki may be incorrect.

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